It is one of the many holidays that can be tricky for families managing food allergies to navigate. For some families, with all of the candy, traditions and celebrations inherent in the holiday, Halloween is hands-down the hardest to manage.
For a few years, my son was too young to realize we skipped Halloween completely. Touching candy that probably has egg residue? Nope. Attending Halloween events where icing and chocolate are smeared on little hands, costumes and all of the surfaces they’ve touched? Thanks, but no thanks.
However, last year I was tired of excluding ourselves from the fun. I was tired of feeling left out. So months before Halloween, I started crafting a plan. I wanted to see if I could make it be a fun, safe and inclusive holiday for all of us. And you know what? It was one of our best holiday celebrations ever!
Three Keys for Making Halloween Safe and Fun
Here are three key ways my family made Halloween safe, fun, yummy and inclusive:
1. We bought yummy, fun and allergen-free candy ahead of time. In addition to buying “regular” candy from the store like Dum-Dum lollipops, Starburst and Smarties (which are free of the “Top 8” allergens), I discovered and ordered Halloween-themed chocolates from Premium Chocolatiers, which makes delicious candies that are free of everything except for soy. Of course, there are several other great bakeries that make allergen-free goodies.
2. We invited a small group of my son’s friends over to celebrate. We scheduled the party two weeks before the big day (so costumes would be clean), calling it our “test out your costume” pirate treasure party. We had nonfood games, tricks and allergen-free treats! The minute everyone arrived, they were each handed their own treasure map and riddle for where their pirate loot bag and first treasure were hiding. I also handed out stickers and “jewels” during our games!
3. We reached out to our neighbors to help make trick-or-treating safe and inclusive. I chose 10 or so houses in our neighborhood and left notes about my son’s food allergies, along with a little bag that included cars, stickers and safe candy. In the note I explained they needed to keep the bag closed due to cross-contact risks. I told them he was going to be a pirate, etc. It turned out to be SO fun, and my neighbors were so supportive. We made a few new friends and found out some of our neighbors also have food allergies.
Most importantly, last year’s festivities provided another learning experience by initiating dialogue about what is and is not safe, and by increasing our awareness when we met other families who also are managing food allergies.
Last year my son saw first-hand there are ways to have even more fun without food!
And of course, we posted our sign that said we were handing out nonfood treats (stickers, cars and other cool toys) as well as treats that were free of the top 8 allergens. This year, we also will display our teal pumpkin as part of FARE’s “Teal Pumpkin Project” campaign to let everyone know our house is offering nonfood treats.
It may seem like a lot of planning ahead, but it really wasn’t. And my son’s smiles made it all worth it. What fun we had!
I know some families managing food allergies do something called “the switch witch,” where they trade out unsafe candy for safe goodies when the kids get home. He is a bit older this year, but he is so contact-reactive.
Perhaps he could wear gloves as part of his costume and we could do the “switch witch” when we get home? Or, perhaps we’ll stick with what worked last year. Either way, I’m looking forward to the fun we will have!
How do you stay safe on Halloween? What traditions have worked for you?
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